My wife and I watched the last episode of The West Wing tonight – I mean the last episode of the last series. It was like leaving a bunch of old friends. Nothing particularly dramatic happened; in fact, there were more goodbyes and clearings-out than I’ve seen in a program in a long time.
But at least the country was left in good hands (!) with Jimmy Smits taking over from Martin Sheen. They must have been hard shoes to fill.
I don’t remember watching a series before where the names of the characters were as familiar to me as the names of people at work. That might be classed as being a bit sad, but The West Wing, even in its final less glorious three seasons without Aaron Sorkin. While Sorkin’s writing style – a combination of wit and intellectual rigour - was one of the things that made the show in the first instance, the series managed to keep its end up pretty well, thanks to a superb cast, interesting plotlines and top production values.
The last two or three episodes seemed to be a round-up of cast members who’d long since vanished from the program. For example there was the briefest of appearances from Ainsley Hayes, the slightly nutty Republican who got employed by a Democratic government, Timothy Busfield, as C J Craig’s old flame, the three Bartlett daughters, Mallory O’Brian, (Leo McGarry’s daughter), Rob Lowe looking as though he’d never really been part of the main cast at all; Mary-Louise Parker who seemed to appear out of nowhere and take over a place in the cast again, and of course, the Secret Service agent who’d played a big role in earlier seasons.
It was like gathering all the gold back under one roof.